July 16, 2012

Colonial Williamsburg with Kids

My mom and I recently took my eldest daughter (7) on a day trip to Colonial Williamsburg. We live only about 40 minutes away from this popular tourist attraction, so we're well-familiar with the town. This was my first time touring with a child, however, and by the end of the visit I had a much better idea of how to do Colonial Williamsburg with Kids.

Meet Elizabeth!

Elizabeth is the best friend of Felicity, the Colonial-era American Girl doll who just happens to live in Colonial Williamsburg! Unfortunately, these dolls have been retired by AG, but you can still find the Felicity mini doll on Amazon. (I think the six-inch versions of the AG dolls are fabulous, especially for the historical characters. And at around $15-20 each, much more affordable.) And of course her books are all still available.

If you're planning a trip to Williamsburg with girls, consider picking up one of these dolls as a traveling companion, and maybe watching her movie before coming. (The visitor's center has a little movie you can view before heading out, but it was all a bit over E's head.)

Elizabeth led us on a tour of her hometown, and showed us all the places a kid would like best.

The Map

When you purchase/redeem your tickets at the visitor's center, you'll receive a Kids Adventure Map. Kids can get their map punched at numerous (but not all) locations around the town. If they receive a certain number of punches (dependent on their age), they'll get a keepsake pin. The pin is nothing to write home about, but this map is your guide to kid-friendly places around town.

TIP: If you're short on time, skip the Children's Orientation Tour. It's slow and mostly involves a list of rules for touring the buildings and grounds.

Powell House

This was by far my favorite location in Colonial Williamsburg. Unlike most of the buildings in Williamsburg, this house is a self-paced tour, allowing you to explore the house and grounds at your leisure. Time your visit for early afternoon so your kids can help make lunch in the real working kitchen and then assist in setting the table at 2pm.

In the courtyard you and your kids can try your hand at eighteenth century outdoor games, or go inside and play with dolls or board games in the parlor.

And be sure to explore the garden... taste the pea pods, smell the dill, feed the chickens, and take pictures of the bulls.

Public Gaol

Near the Powell House is the Public Gaol, which is a short and fun tour of the jailor's quarters and the prisoners' cells. Definitely worth popping over for.

Wythe House

George Wythe is a fascinating character and his house is a good stop for kids. See how baskets are made, play more outdoor games, and see the sort of experiments George Wythe and his students would have done.

The Brickyard

It's a bit of a hike, but try to work in a visit to the Brickyard to see how they made bricks. Kids can jump right in and help churn local clay with their bare feet!

The Encampment

Count on about an hour for this tour, since there is usually a wait, but if you have boys, the Encampment is a must-see. Kids get a chance to tour the encampment as well as train to become revolutionary soldiers.

The Governor's Palace

This isn't on the kid's map, but it's a given... no trip to Colonial Williamsburg is complete without a visit to the Governor's Palace.

The rooms are simply gorgeous and the tour guides on this one are always top-notch.

Other Tips

  • Keep an eye out for famous characters wandering around the town. We got to have a chat with Elizabeth's good friend George Washington.
  • Plan for lunch. There are very few places to eat right within Colonial Williamsburg. Go ahead and make reservations at Shield's Tavern, or else plan on eating at one of the restaurants in nearby Merchant's Square. There's a bakery behind Raleigh Tavern, and while their gingerbread are definitely worth stopping by, the $7 sandwiches are disgusting.
  • Leave the littles at home. If you're able, don't take kids under 5. They're free, but unless you have a really laid-back toddler or preschooler, they won't be happy sitting through tours.
  • Come between Thanksgiving and Christmas! If you can only come once, you simply must see Colonial Williamsburg during the Christmas season. The decorations are lovely and the First Night celebration is fun for the whole family.
  • Avoid the Peyton-Randolf house. This long tour on slavery during the Colonial period may interest you, but it will bore your children to tears.

    And last but not least...
  • Buy them a hat! As far as I'm concerned, this is a requirement for any Colonial Williamsburg visit. If you're really into dress up, you can even rent costumes for the kids for $25/day. 


  1. We have been there quite a few times but I didn't know about the children's map. Thanks for all of the tips!

  2. What a fun, fascinating trip! Elizabeth is a great tour guide ;) I haven't been to Colonial Williamburg, since high school. The hubs and I should really plan a trip soon.

  3. I love the hat! I've always wanted to see Colonial Williamsburg, but it's a bit far away from us. Great tips though!

  4. I <3 this post and I love that you took your AG doll with you! :) We wanted to take a trip to Colonial Williamsburg soon, but decided to wait since we have 4 and a 2 year old, but we WILL go once they are able to handle it. Thanks for all the tips!

  5. What a great trip! The Powell House was our favorite stop too! It was fun to be there first in the day to have the entire place to ourselves - looks like that's what happened to you too!

  6. We went a few months ago and it was so much fun.

  7. We <3 Colonial Williamsburg, infact we have annual passes. We do take our little people (now 3 and 2) but we only go for a couple of hours at a time and so it has taken us 2 years to see everyting. We just take turns on the tours. Their favorite part is the maze behind the Palace gardens.

  8. Incredible! I feel like I was right there with you guys!!! And costume rentals for 25 bucks a day! I would go crazy!!!!

  9. Good tips. I would say that some young children really do enjoy the experience. My four-year-old has been obsessed with fifes and drums since our visit just after his third birthday. He has a colonial outfit and is learning American history as we play Williamsburg at home. There is LOTS to do without going on any tours.


More Fun...

Related Posts with Thumbnails